What are the jobs of the future? Major corporations are grappling with this conundrum just like parents and students. Changes in the jobs market keep me busy at work and beyond. Friends and family also often ask me what professions will be in demand in the future.
As if finding a job weren't difficult enough already, changes in the jobs market, now and in the future, are making it even harder. A range of studies and reports, including the respected Frey/Osborne Study, predict half of all jobs in the USA will disappear in the next 10-15 years because of digitization. And a study by the Institute for Employment Research (Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung, IAB) (German) expects that around 1.5 million jobs will disappear here in Germany by 2025 while 1.5 million new jobs will be created.
This poses the question: does digitization give us the key to full employment or are we witnessing the end of work?
I'd start by saying it's increasingly clear that work won't simply dry up. Instead, in the medium term I think we'll see the jobs market being completely split in two.
When talking about jobs in the digitization bubble, you quickly think of all the profiles brought about by digitization itself, like data scientist, both as a stand-alone job and its cross-cutting skills like communication and conflict resolution, which are required in every job in some way. Or software and algorithm developers. In the latter example much of the work will be done by machines but the creative task of combining different pieces of code and algorithms will remain an important, creative and, above all, human domain.
Decisions taken by people
If you are a designer or engineer you will witness fundamental changes, with user-centered design and working in more subtle fields, like deciding color schemes and developing formats. Design will become a core job of the future! Moreover, and less so in the production context than for innovation and development, people will be needed to drive technological innovation. Skills like creativity, coaching and systematic thinking will become more important for mechanical engineering.
Given that the world's most valuable companies will operate with fewer employees there will inevitably be more companies and, consequently, more demand for managers. How different things were just a few decades ago. The fields of corporate development, innovation and quality management will offer demanding positions for people who combine a wide array of skills. In this context, ethical training will grow in importance. Standardized, routine tasks will disappear. People will be needed to supervise machines and act as an ethical barometer in borderline cases, which may come to characterize AI and digitization. Even if the technical know-how is ready some day, on the legal level, for example, control over the law, constitution and justice must remain in human hands.
Nevertheless, none of this can be achieved without a root-and-branch transformation in the education system. Creativity and skills like teamwork, debating and discourse must be developed at universities and replace educational mass production involving mostly formal learning.
Focusing on human relationships
There will also be other jobs of an entirely different nature in social fields, whose development and character will not remain completely untouched by digitization. For the sake of social integration we must urgently optimize person-to-person communication and pay far greater attention to human relationships than we have to date.
This applies to a whole spectrum of job profiles that will either change significantly or at least require a different status. Let's take education and care as an example. Whole sections of these fields will be automated, but new requirements and the growing demand for person-to-person interaction will, in my opinion and in the not to distant future, lead to these professions achieving the social standing they should already have today.
The growth in "human networks" will also inevitably lead to more conflicts and tension. These circumstances and finding a role for themselves will make things more difficult for some people. For both reasons, support will be needed from psychologists and coaches. In turn this will bolster sociological research.
A return to handcrafts
The yearning for tradition, history and the tangible will, and this is the third part, spark a renaissance of handcrafts. The word handcraft literally means crafting things with your own hands. This represents a counterbalance to digitization and will gain renewed importance as a result. I believe that digitization will lead to fundamental changes in the handcrafts sector but not to its erosion. Handcrafts are a perfect continuation of the principle of human work. Manufactured products will enjoy a special, to an extent artistic status and become an expression of the love of honest, hand-made products people display even now.
By the same token, I am also convinced that consumptions of all forms of cultural products and services will rise when people have more time and leisure to devote to such things. Artists' creations will be in high demand and, as a result, more people will be able to express their creative or artistic sides.
Finally, the overriding consideration that people will define themselves far less by their job applies to all of the groups mentioned above. Of course, a certain level of financial stability will always be important, but there will be a general decrease in the pursuit of more and more money. Each of us has only limited resources which is why there will be a shift in relevance to other models of work. And the world of work will also change forever as people become aware that a 20th pair of shoes in their closet does not make them as happy as an evening spent with friends.